Laser scar removal minimizes the appearance of scars caused by acne, surgery, or other factors. Using a high-energy light, lasers can remove or reshape areas of the skin that are affected by scar tissue. There are several different types of laser scar removal available, each suited for a specific type of scar. Laser scar removal works by vaporizing and removing a layer of old skin, allowing the new skin to become healthier and thicker. This results in the softening of scars by as much as 50 percent or more. Laser scar removal will not completely remove scars, and depending on the severity of the scarring, multiple treatments are usually required.
How Scars Develop
Scarring occurs when the healing process is disrupted, typically by a lack or excess of collagen, the main protein that supports the skin, bone, and cartilage. Scars are the normal and unavoidable outcome of tissue repair. Some scars fade in appearance over time, while others remain visible for years.
During laser scar removal, ablative lasers are moved along the scar to remove a layer of skin. This will expose a more natural-looking skin layer, which will heal over time to minimize scar appearance. Some non-ablative lasers target lower layers of the skin, stimulating new collagen growth and correcting scars from the inside out. The length of the procedure depends upon the size of the treated area, usually lasting between a few minutes to two hours.
Anesthesia is not necessary for minor scar treatment, since patients will only experience a slight burning sensation. In more severe cases, the laser scar removal procedure can be performed under local or general anesthesia.
Benefits and Risks
As with any medical procedure, there are both benefits and risks for laser scar removal. Benefits to your skin may include diminished appearance of wrinkles, uneven skin coloration, sun damage, and scars, along with new collagen production and smoother skin. Some of the risks for laser scar removal could result in infection, permanent changes to skin pigmentation, and laser scarring.
Following the laser scar removal procedure, you might be prescribed an antibiotic to prevent infection. The skin's regeneration process can begin as early as four days after the treatment. The speed of regeneration depends on the type of laser used and individual skin characteristics.
Ideal Candidates for Laser Scar Removal
Not everyone is an ideal candidate for laser scar removal. People with particular skin disorders, such as psoriasis, cystic acne, and dermatitis, may not be potential patients.
Laser scar removal is most effective on these types of scars:
Raised, expansive, reddish-purple scars that extend beyond the initial wound area and builds over time.
Firm, elevated, pink scars that remain within the initial wound area and may fade over time.
Depressed pockets in the skin that can result from skin conditions, such as acne.
Read a clinical review on laser resurfacing for acne
Other Treatments for Scars
Although complete scar removal is not possible, most scars can be significantly improved in appearance through cosmetic techniques. In addition to laser scar resurfacing, there are a number of other methods to diminish the appearance of scars, including microdermabrasion, chemical peels, collagen injections, and fat transfer procedures.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How soon after surgery can surgical scars be treated?
A: This answer varies depending on the surgery and the surgeon. Different surgeons recommend anything from one month to six months. We recommend asking your own doctor.
Q: Can areas of thin skin, such as on the back of your hands and neck, be treated with fractional laser treatment?
A: Yes, thinner skin areas such as on the hands, neck and chest can be treated with fractionated lasers. Usually they are treated with a decreased number of passes and diminished energy use. As always, we recommend starting with test spots.
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